Grades are Posted Where? 5 Academic Differences Between the U.S. and Spain

Anthony Palmiscno is a student at Seton Hill University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Anthony is studying abroad with ISA in Sevilla, Spain.

Over the past month or so, Sevilla has proven to provide quite a cultural difference to become accustomed to, whether it be the music, the people, or wide variety of food. One of the biggest surprises that I have experienced, however, is the educational system. 

As an education student myself, and having had researched international pedagogical methods before, I knew that my experience at the Universidad de Sevilla was bound to be unique. The degree of uniqueness, however, was slightly shocking. As a disclaimer, I am not saying that these methods of instruction or administration are better than worse than the American system– they are simply different. Here are 5 things I have noticed to be different between the U.S. and Spain in academia!

University of Seville Exterior, Seville, Spain - Palmiscno - Photo 1
This is the university that I get to study in every day!

 1. Classes Although I participate in classes with American students, the professors are still 100% Spanish. For this reason, courses are conducted in the Spanish fashion. Although I cannot generalize, the majority of the classes that I am taking consist of me sitting down, the professor lecturing, and the class taking notes. I can attest to this layout in my class with local Spanish students as well. The entire period consists of the clacking noise of students typing or frantically writing down the course material. Normally at my university, students are provided with material ahead of time, they come to class with questions, and discussions take place.

2. Grades– In addition to course set-up, the grading system in Spain is quite different to that in the U.S. We have a GPA system of 1.0-4.0 and grades of A, B, C, D, etc. In Spain, there is a system that runs from 1-10, where 10 is the absolute best grade that can be attained (sobresaliente in Spanish). Achieving a 10 is close to impossible in the Spanish higher education system. There are many students that are very happy to pass with a 5. 

3. Grade Posts– This brings me to my next point. How does one find out their grades? An online course management system? Not quite… Course grades are posted in each respective faculty. That’s right; on the walls of every faculty you can find a list with students’ names and the grade that they have earned. My jaw hit the floor when I glanced over a list and saw the amount of students who had failed a given course. Unfortunately, the whole world knew it as well. 

University of Seville Interior, Seville, Spain - Palmiscno - Photo 2
This central courtyard is a popular place for students to hang out during the school day.

4. Socializing– In this academic setting, I have also noticed something that goes on outside of the classroom:  the social ambiance. Students are always out with each other in courtyards, terraces, or simply outside of lecture halls. The amount of communication and interaction that I see on a daily basis is truly invigorating and puts me in a great mood to start the day and my academic workload!

5. Cost for EU Students– Finally, in addition to the academic setting in and of itself, one can also see a difference in the price you pay for it. After talking to a few friends from Córdoba, I found out that their average tuition cost can be around €1500 – €2000. This price obviously varies with the university, as it does in the US. But one can appreciate the significant difference between the two countries. 

A combination of these contrasting cultural characteristics has provided me with a definite broaden perspective that will serve me well as I continue my journey to become an effective teacher!

Want to read more about Sevilla? Check out “6 Things to Do Before Leaving Sevilla.”